Home Planters Top 10 Problems with Self Watering Pots/Planters

Top 10 Problems with Self Watering Pots/Planters


Newly planted plants need deep watering to get their young roots going. This is the reason why people look for alternatives that will help them by fulfilling these requirements. These days, self-watering plants are all the rage. These self-watering pots are convenient because they intelligently irrigate your crops when and as needed, preserving water and giving you the freedom to continue with your daily chores without worrying about stunted growth or plants dying as a result of thirst. However, it would be best to be careful because of the potential problems with self-watering pots, including breeding grounds for mosquitoes and causing root disease.

What Are Self-Watering Planters?

self water planter has two pots: an outer pot usually holds the water, and a second inner pot usually holds the potting mix. The wick joining the two compartments allows your plant’s roots to sip water from the reservoir as and when needed. Most of the contemporary water planters have a separate water reservoir.

How Self-Watering Pots for plants Work?

The soil draws up water from the outer container (through the wick)- provided the reservoir is full- using the capillary system. Flooding is rarely a problem, with one or more holes helping drain excess water from the crop’s soil. This excess water subsequently collects underneath in the reservoir. Other planters come with an overflow hose which ensures that the platform is never swamped. You cannot leave the container and the potting mix to dry out completely as the wick will not draw water causing the roots to wither and die. For a detailed step-by-step article on making a self-watering planter, click here.

10 Problems With Self-Watering Pots:

Potential Concentration of Toxic Minerals Salts

A significant challenge with self-watering planters is the higher concentration of various mineral salts in the planting mix. This mainly occurs because water is continuously being drawn up from beneath and evaporated via the top, leaving dissolved minerals behind. These mineral salts buildup can eventually be harmful to your plants.

They Can Be Rich Breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Drainage holes are essential in self-watering pots. Unfortunately, they offer a perfect breeding nest for mosquitoes. Pesky mosquitoes will lay their eggs there, and when they hatch, mosquitoes will multiply because of the perpetually soggy conditions.

Root rot

Some self-watering planters don’t have an overflow opening. The water can, therefore, flood the platform and deeply wet the soil. Eventually, your plant roots will start to rot, leading to stagnated growth or plant death. Another possible outcome is the growth of fungi, which will again interfere with your crops’ healthy growth.

Not All Plants Thrive in Self-watering Planters

Some plants –including succulents and cacti -need to dry out between watering sessions thoroughly and will suffer if you make the mistake of cultivating them in these planters. For example, certain herbs are said to lose their strong taste if grown in damp soil. On the same note, some flowers such as nasturtiums excel in more balanced environments and fail if Putin self-watering containers where the soil is always moist.

Poor Root Growth

Naturally, plants like spreading out their roots and will push them in all directions- including towards the ground. Self-watering planters have water sitting underneath the pot, so when roots branch that way, they land in pure water. But they won’t grow there because of insufficient oxygen. This reduces your plant’s root mass, inhibiting healthy growth.


Here are some practical ideas on overcoming some of the problems with self-watering pots.

Mosquito growth

To prevent mosquitoes from breeding from your planter, flush its water after every few days. You can also plug the planter’s holes using a pot scrubber to prevent the insects from flying in a while, still letting water flow out.

Toxic Minerals Build Up

Your plant’s leaves (tips) will turn brown and dry if harmful salty buildup occurs. Removing the water reservoir and flushing the soil with tons of freshwater may help. You can also be going for a fresh potting mix each planting season. Also, avoid using liquid fertilizers, time-release fertilizers, or water with high salt content for these planters. If anything, compost is the most recommended fertilizer for crops in self-watering containers.

Do Your Research

To avoid the frustrations of planting the wrong plants in your self-watering pots, do your research.

Root rot

You’ve to go for a self-watering planter with an overflow opening. You can also drill one. Using a more porous/airy soil also minimizes root rot.

Expert Tips When Using Self Watering Pots

  • If you have a large planter, try to reduce evaporation by covering the soil top with mulch.
  • Planting using moisture-retentive soil mixes helps to decrease the frequency of refilling.
  • Also, soil for growing in self-watering containers should be light, crispy, and well-drained to encourage excellent growth.
  • Never leave self-watering containers out after a heavy frost. Otherwise, the water pot in the base may freeze and expand, making the chamber break.

And if you must store them outside during winter, ensure you first drain the base completely dry.

  • The best self-watering pots to use depend on the plant(s) you plan to grow.

Generally, you should pick the biggest container available since it will hold more soil, creating a bigger root growing space and improved root growth.

  • You can reduce moisture loss (from leaves) by using an umbrella to protect plants from punishing midday heat.
  • Flowers, vegetables, and herbs have unique nutritional requirements, so use the recommended dry granular fertilizer for the crop you are growing. Also, use it as per the package directions.

There are many self-watering pots in the market; you are spoilt for choice, so choose wisely.

Wrapping It Up

Yes, self-watering planters drastically cut the amount of time you spend watering your crops and set you free to pursue your other chores. However, you could face potential problems with self-watering pots such as poor root growth, toxic minerals buildup, and fungi. Some helpful remedies include using porous soil, flushing your potting mix with lots of water, and plugging the planter’s drainage holes with a pot scrubber. Others include thoroughly researching your plants and going for a planter with an overflow.

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